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March 7th, 2013

Kenyans Vote in Tense Presidential Elections


Millions of Kenyans stood in long lines March 4 to vote in the country’s first presidential election in six years with memories of the violence that followed the last vote.

Maasai people queue to vote in Ilngarooj, Kajiado County, Maasailand, on March 4, 2013 during the nationwide elections.

In 2007-8, more than 1,000 people died due to fighting between different ethnic groups and tribes after disputed presidential elections.

Since then, changes within Kenyan society have eased tensions to a certain extent. Kenya’s press, considered one of the more free in the region, made efforts to put each candidate’s profile and policy reputation on display. There also was a televised presidential debate in Kenya, the first of its kind.

Still, many Kenyans took precautions, emptying out food markets and staying out of ethnically mixed areas.

A race between two prominent sons

The two frontrunners for president are current Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, son of Kenya’s first president Jomo Kenyatta.

The rivalry between the Odingas and Kenyattas goes back to the beginning of the republic in 1963 when Odinga’s father Jaramogi served briefly as vice president under Jomo Kenyatta before disagreeing with the government and resigning.

Ethnic divisions typically have driven most decision making in Kenya’s political system. The Kenyan military is largely made up of Kenyatta’s ethnic group, raising concerns that if Odinga wins, the military might prevent him from taking office.

Uhuru Kenyatta leaves in company of supporters after he was cleared by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to run for presidency in the March 4 presidential elections in January.


Close election could lead to run-off

The current president, Mwai Kibaki, was not allowed to run again, due to term limits. Odinga, who ran against Kibaki in 2007 and lost, said that foul play and vote rigging cost him that election and warned that he will not be cheated again.

Uhuru Kenyatta is currently under investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for inciting the violence that followed the 2007 election.

Kenya’s complicated election laws increase the chance that there will have to be a runoff in April.

A presidential candidate must win more than 50 percent of the total votes cast, as well as 25 percent of the votes cast in more than half of all 47 counties.

The results are still being tallied. With about half of the votes counted, Kenyatta seems to hold the lead, but the two sides continue to argue about hundreds of thousands of questionable votes.

–Compiled by Ibrahim Balkhy for NewsHour Extra

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